The Te Matuku Story
The story of Te Matuku Oysters is a story of two families – the Fenwicks and the Upchurches – who together created an oyster farming business in one of the most beautiful settings in New Zealand and deliver their deliciously fresh oysters to the country’s most discerning restaurants.
In the late 1980s Rob and Jennie Fenwick purchased the 350ha peninsular between Te Matuku and Awaawaroa Bays at the bottom end of Waiheke Island where they planned to create a unique nature sanctuary for future generations of Aucklanders. The land covered in regenerating native forest was covenanted and a corridor through it donated to the public for a fabulous forest walkway.
More importantly, they set to work to create a marine reserve of the pristine Te Matuku mangrove forest and estuary and to include Passage Rock in Tamaki Strait. And within that area sat several oyster farm leases that had been there since 1971, derelict for much of the time. Rob, later knighted for his services to business and the natural environment formed a company , with former partner Phil Preece, that acquired two of the leases and embarked on a mission to create the most environmentally sustainable farm for producing Pacific oysters in New Zealand.
Enter Nat Upchurch and Duana Foster. About 20 years younger than Rob and Jennie and each with longstanding Waiheke pedigrees, and soon to be married. Nat graduated with a marine biology degree with a growing interest in crustacean genetics and Duana working in Auckland city’s corporate environment. They were determined to build a future where their family, like them, could grow up on Waiheke.
The company set to work removing the derelict farm to replace it with a revolutionary new system for the sustainable husbandry of oysters. Instead of rows of rack and rail made of tanalised timber that impede the flow of tidal streams in estuarine bays, the new farm incorporated large plastic baskets suspended from cables. The oysters within the baskets are loose, and because of the enhanced tidal flow, they’re exposed to more current and nutrients, enabling them to grow faster and invest their energy in meat condition instead of nagging on to the rail. The process is called “single seed” oyster farming.
The Fenwicks and the Upchurches saw a future for the business that celebrated the unique taste and flavour of oysters fresh from the pure marine environment of Te Matuku Bay. The operation would remain relatively small but the quality of oysters would be uncompromising. From farm to table, Te Matuku Oysters continues it’s mantra of unswerving attention to freshness, customer service and of course, taste and flavour.
“When you love oysters like we do, you look after them like children, and the place where they come from …”